AUBMC Cardiac Arrhythmia team performs unique procedure controlling heart beat disorder without surgery

June 4, 2014 3:35 pm

A complex procedure known as ‘Epicardial Ventricular Tachycardia Ablation’ was performed percutaneously for the first time in Lebanon and the region at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) by the Cardiac Arrhythmia team in the Division of Cardiology of the Department of Internal Medicine.

The procedure, which benefits select high-risk patients with heart rhythm abnormalities, is considered to be a first in the Arab World conducted through the skin and without the presence of a surgical team, a technique very few medical centers worldwide can perform.

The procedure, led by Dr. Bernard Abi Saleh, Cardiac Electrophysiologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at AUBMC, with the assistance of Dr Maurice Khoury and Dr Marwan Refaat, was an ablation of ventricular tachycardia – which consists of burning an area causing rapid and dangerous heart beat – in a patient with left ventricular thrombus (blood clot) inside the heart which precluded performing the traditional ablation whereby a catheter (the wire that burns) enters the cavity of the heart to get to the problem spot.

“The heart was accessed from its outer sac without going inside the cavity utilizing a small needle and a catheter. This was done completely percutaneously without any surgical incision,” said Dr. Abi Saleh. The percutaneous approach reduces side effects associated with surgery and allows for quicker recovery time.

This procedure is performed for patients with a clot in the heart or in patients in whom the area causing the dangerous rhythm is closer to the outer layer of the heart muscle. Statistically most heart rhythm problems originate closer to the inside of the heart, a major contributing factor as to why standard catheter ablation from within the heart is attempted first. Patients with ventricular tachycardia without coronary artery disease are at higher risk to have the heart rhythm problem on the outside of the heart.

“This procedure is not performed in many heart centers because of its complexity. It is technically more challenging but lifesaving in specific cases that are very high risk,” added Dr. Abi Saleh. “It takes out the dangerous cardiac arrhythmia that may lead to sudden cardiac death,” Abi added.

The Cardiac Arrhythmia service at AUBMC has pioneered many cardiac procedures in Lebanon and the region including the first ablation of atrial fibrillation which is an abnormal heart rhythm originating in the top chambers of the heart (atria) and a major cause of stroke. In addition, it was the first center in the Middle East to perform Implantable defibrillator (ICD) implantation and Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy device (CRT-D). The service also acquired a cutting-edge technology, the FFR (fractional flow reserve), which is the most objective and reliable way to evaluate the indication for treating a vessel by angioplasty or surgical technique. The division also utilizes the Angiojet, one of the most effective methods in cleaning blood vessels from clots. In addition, AUBMC established the Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Program.

With cardiovascular disease and stroke being rapidly growing health issues a heart and vascular center that addresses these issues is essential to reducing the burden of the disease in Lebanon and the region, AUBMC have established the framework for the first Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence, set to open in 2015.

For more information please contact:
The AUBMC Office of Communications
Tel: +961350000 ext. 4732

Rana Alley
Director of Strategic Planning and Communications
Tel: +9611350000 ext. 4722

Suzan Bou Dargham
Account Director
Ketchum Raad Middle East
Tel: +9613690505